SpaceX launches Spanish high-power communications satellite


SpaceX on Monday launched a Spanish high-performance communications satellite that will serve government and corporate users in the Americas, Greenland and along the Atlantic air and maritime corridors.

“One of the main target markets for this satellite is mobility, specifically in-flight connectivity and maritime (services),” Ignacio Sanchis, chief commercial officer of satellite owner Hispasat, told Spaceflight Now.

“We will also provide connectivity services to governments and companies in the fields of energy, oil and gas, etc., as well as to telecom and mobile network operators as they expand their mobile networks,” added Sanchis.

A long exposure captures the launch of Hispasat’s Amazon Nexus communications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket orbiting over a full moon as the California rocket builder chalked up its ninth flight so far this year.

William Harwood/CBS News

With a first stage making its sixth flight, the 229-foot Falcon 9 burst into life at 20:32 EST and quickly rocketed away from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, circling over a full moon as it took off high overhead the Atlantic Ocean disappeared from sight.

Thirty-six minutes later, after jettisoning the first stage and performing two upper stage engine burns, the rocket placed Hispasat’s Amazonas Nexus relay station in an elliptical orbit. En route, the first stage flew by itself to land on a landing barge offshore.

The electric thrusters onboard the Amazon Nexus satellite will be deployed over the next few weeks to circle the orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles above the equator. In such geosynchronous orbits, spacecraft take 24 hours to complete an orbit and therefore appear to hang stationary in the sky. This in turn enables the use of stationary antennas on the ground.

An artist’s concept of the Amazonas Nexus communications satellite in orbit, showing its coverage of the Americas, Greenland and much of the Atlantic Ocean.


Built by Thales Alenia Space, the 4.5-ton Amazonas Nexus is a “high throughput satellite” or HTS with a next-generation Digital Transparent Processor, a “technological breakthrough” according to the company that will allow the satellite to be in orbit for various applications upgraded.

“Amazon’s Nexus is the most advanced satellite in the Hispasat fleet,” said Sanchis. “It’s a very powerful HTS satellite containing (a) state-of-the-art digital processor. So it offers a lot of flexibility for payload reconfiguration.”

Once checked out and stationed at 61 degrees W, the satellite will serve the Americas, Greenland and air and sea corridors, focusing on mobile users and providing connectivity on board ships, aircraft and in rural areas.

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